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FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Airspace (Extraordinary Renditions)

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether United Kingdom security services personnel have travelled in an aircraft used for the purpose of an international rendition. [36443]

Mr. Straw: It is not the Government's policy to comment on intelligence matters.

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of Statefor Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions and at what locations officials in the United Kingdom security services have questioned individuals who have been subject to an international rendition or other involuntary transfer by United States officials. [36444]

Mr. Straw: It is not the Government's policy to comment on intelligence matters.

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether any aircraft used by United States officials for the purpose of an international rendition has landed at a UK airport. [36445]

Mr. Straw: I refer the right hon. and learned Member to the answer I gave him today (UIN 36414).

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information officials in the United Kingdom security services collect on (a) the detention of individuals in European states by or at the request of United States officials and (b) the transit through UK airports of aircraft used by United States officials for the purpose of international rendition. [36446]

Mr. Straw: It is not the Government's policy to comment on intelligence matters.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what the Government's policy is on the use of (a) UK airspace and (b) UK overseas territory for the purposes of extraordinary rendition flights involving those accused of terrorist activities; and if he will make a statement. [36673]

(2) whether the Government have made representations to the US Administration regarding reports of the use of British territory and overseas territories, including sovereign bases, for purposes of extraordinary rendition flights involving those accused of terrorist activities; and if he will make a statement. [36677]

Mr. Straw: I refer the right hon. and learned Member to the answer I gave the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) today (UIN 36414).

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from his EU counterparts regarding the use of EU airspace for extraordinary rendition flights involving those accused of terrorist activities; and if he will make a statement. [36674]


 
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Mr. Straw: At the request of my EU colleagues, as the EU President, I wrote to the United States (US) Secretary of State on 29 November about media reports of US rendition operations and detention camps in Europe. The Secretary of State replied on 6 December enclosing a copy of her public statement of 5 December, available at http://www.state.gov./secretary/rm/2005/57602.htm, by way of response.

Bangladesh

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Bangladesh concerning terrorist incidents in Bangladesh; and if he will take steps to highlight to the international community recent incidents of attacks against the Christian community in Bangladesh. [36933]

Dr. Howells: I visited Bangladesh from 14 to 16 November. In meetings with the Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, Home Affairs Minister, Lutfurzzaman Babar, and others, I raised the 17 August attacks and subsequent bombings. I underlined to them and others the need for this threat to be addressed seriously and reminded them of the UK's commitment to work with the Government of Bangladesh to counter terrorism and promote democracy and the rule of law.

We continue to be concerned about the situation of religious minorities including Christians in Bangladesh. I discussed this with representatives from minority communities during my visit and outlined, in a widely reported speech to senior politicians, religious figures, media and business professionals, the UK's concerns about acts of repression against minorities. The British High Commission in Dhaka closely monitors incidents of religious persecution and intolerance. These issues are highlighted in the 2005 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Human Rights Report which is available in the Library of the House. We regularly raise human rights including religious persecution with the Government of Bangladesh, both bilaterally and together with EU partners.

Burma

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take up with the Burmese authorities the case of Thet Win Aung, a prisoner of conscience in Burma. [36913]

Ian Pearson: Thet Win Aung is one of a number of political prisoners the EU has identified as being of particular concern. The EU raises their cases with the Burmese military regime at every opportunity. Most recently, our ambassador in Rangoon raised this with the Burmese Interior Minister on 26 October and the Minister of Foreign Affairs on 31 October.

Chagos Islanders

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on plans for the return of the Chagos islanders to their homes. [34050]


 
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Mr. Douglas Alexander: There are no plans to allow the Chagossians to return to the Chagos Archipelago.

Two Orders in Council were made in June 2004: the British Indian Ocean Territory (Constitution) Order 2004 and the British Indian Ocean Territory (Immigration) Order 2004. These restored full immigration control over the entire British Indian Ocean Territory. In his written statement to Parliament on 15 June 2004, Official Report, columns 32–34WS, my hon. Friend, the former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Bill Rammell stated,

In the statement, Mr Rammell also said

The Government's position has not changed.

An application for judicial review of the Orders in Council will be heard by the High Court from 6 to 12 December 2005.

CIA Prisons (Europe)

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he first raised reports of secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons in European countries with the US authorities. [36676]

Mr. Straw: At the request of my EU colleagues, as the EU President, I wrote to the US Secretary of State on 29 November about media reports of US rendition operations and detention camps in Europe. The Secretary of State replied on 6 December enclosing a copy of her public statement of 5 December, available at http://www.state.gov./secretary/rm/2005/57602.htm, by way of response.

Colombia

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Government will offer support to victims of human rights violations in Colombia. [35248]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: We have consistently demonstrated our support to the victims of human rights violations in Colombia. We have done so through interventions with the Government of Colombia over specific human rights cases, either through the EU or bilaterally; through financial and political support to the Colombia office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and its activities to improve the human rights situation; and through support to British and Colombian NGOs working in human rights in Colombia, including through projects funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Global Conflict Prevention Pool and the Global Opportunities Fund. Ministers regularly meet representatives of churches, trade unions and other organisations in civil society to address their concerns. We have regularly used high level visits between the UK
 
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and Colombia to highlight the importance we and the EU as a whole attach to human rights, especially to the rights of victims of the armed conflict to truth, justice and reparation. The most recent example of this was during the visit to the UK of Vice-President Santos on 28 November when he met my noble Friend, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will continue to ensure that human rights are at the heart of our policy, and indeed EU policy, towards the country.

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of human rights in Colombia; and if he will make a statement. [35250]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The human rights situation in Colombia remains grave. While we acknowledge that there has been a reduction in recent years in some human rights abuses, there is still a lot that needs to be done to improve the situation. During the visit to the UK by Vice-President Santos in late November, my noble Friend, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office raised human rights issues with him. We have made it plain to the Government of Colombia that we are willing to work with them to help bring an improvement to the situation in the country, either as a bilateral partner or through our EU membership. We will continue to look for ways to bring about change, working with other partners such as the UN and civil society, to achieve this goal.

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Government will increase its financial support for the UN Human Rights Office in Bogota" to increase its capacity to observe the impact of the paramilitary demobilisation process on human rights; and if he will make a statement. [35253]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The UK is already a significant financial supporter of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Bogota. In the financial year 2005–06 we provided £400,000 in voluntary contributions to the office of the UNHCHR in Geneva, £100,000 of which was allocated to the Colombia office. Such matters are decided on a case by case and annual basis. The funding level for financial year 2006–07 is likely to be considered in March 2006. We also provide political support for the mandate of the UNHCHR. We view it as an important component in the search for peace and one that seeks to protect and promote the human rights of all sectors of society, particularly victims of the armed conflict.


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